Egypt: Judicial Revolt

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Here's an unexpected wrinkle in the continuing saga of Egyptian electoral reform: The BBC is reporting a "judicial rebellion" on the Nile. "Judges in Egypt," says the Beeb's lede, "have refused to oversee September's presidential election unless new legislation is passed guaranteeing their independence."

The judges also want "to oversee all stages of the electoral process." In previous uncontested presidential referenda (the BBC refers to these as "elections"), the judges were limited to overseeing the actual casting of ballots. Although they apparently observed opposition supporters being prevented by police from entering polling places, the judges lacked legal standing to intervene. In short, they were used by the Mubarak regime as a legal cover to legitimize its presidential circus. Their refusal to continue to be used in this way "is an unprecedented show of defiance to the Egyptian government."

Essentially, they've taken hostage Mubarak's severely hedged electoral reforms that purport to make contested presidential elections possible. Unless Mubarak agrees to their demands, the judges won't supervise the elections; that will leave Mubarak without a legal cover. The Kifaya movement had already denounced Mubarak's reforms, and began calling for an electoral boycott that, if successful, would embarrass a regime claiming to be democratizing. Now the judiciary is using the reform debate for its own purposes.

Obviously, democratization in the region will require not merely the constitutional enumeration of rights (many regional despotisms have long featured worthless constitutions), but independent judiciaries that will protect those rights. In that context, a challenge to the regime by Egypt's judges is potentially a significant development. Now it's Mubarak's turn. The judges say they will meet in September to consider any concessions from the regime.

Thanks to Tony Badran for the link.

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  1. Great, even the Egyptians have to worry about liberal activist judges!

  2. After viewing a short video of the election procedures that Mubarak compiled, it is my expert opinion that the Egyptian elections will be free and fair. And if the liberal activist judges won’t respect that, Congress will have to step in and increase Mubarak’s subsidy so he can better deal with the problem.

  3. I don’t actually have any evidence that the judges are in fact pawns of the Islamist opposition, but that’s what some have said.

    I’m just saying.

  4. Since so many other members of Congress are weighing in on this, can I tack a few amendments onto the legislation authorizing Mubarak’s subsidy? It has come to my attention that there are still a few buildings in West Virginia that aren’t named after me.

  5. Does America even have an independent judiciary anymore?

  6. Even in Nasser’s day the judiciary was known to defy the government, so it’s not all that new. Whether it will sustain that defiance is the big test.

  7. Does America even have an independent judiciary anymore?

    Given that the judiciary has signed off on so many unconstitutional expansions of federal power, I’d be inclined to answer with “barely.”

  8. When local citizens or foreigners disapprove of a political decision made in free and fair elections, the only legitimate recourse is to honor the decision, cooperate whenever possible, and promote future leadership changes through democratic means.

  9. Next thing you know these unelected, elitist, liberal activist judges will be imposing man-dog sex on the Egyptian people!

  10. Great post, thanks for sharing.

    That looks like it could be important, perhaps even another watershed moment in the push for Mideast democracy.

    Very important the international public eye stay on this and on Lebanon to help facilitate the process of democratization.

  11. Wow, how lucky I am to be basking in the comedy stylings of ‘Tom Delay’, ‘Bill Frist’ et. al. You should be writing a sitcom!

    Not funny, not clever, I wish you hadn’t wasted my time.

  12. To be serious, this is one of the reasons why I am deeply suspicious of efforts to weaken the judiciary. I certainly don’t like every decision made by judges in the US. I certainly don’t like every aspect of our legal system.

    But the bottom line is that I don’t know of any dictatorships with strong and independent judiciaries. And the biggest sins of the US judiciary are not sins of commission. Sure, there are examples of judicial over-reach. But by far their worst sins are sins of acquiescence, upholding blatantly unconstitutional laws.

  13. Enough on Egypt. What about a blog entry on the quasi-revolution occuring in Bush’s buddy on the WoT, Uzbekistan? And if Uzbekistan goes, is it only a matter of time before the rest of the Soviet era rulers of central Asia and Belarus are overthrown?

  14. As I understand Egypt’s University System, what school one can attend depends on their scores in the college entrance exam. If one scores the absolute lowest on the entrance exams they can become a lawyer in Egypt. Anything higher and they can study to become something useful. They have, as a profession, been captured by the Islamic extremist for some time. Mubarak has done a pretty good job in Egypt and I have every confidence his son will do even better.

  15. “Enough on Egypt. What about a blog entry on the quasi-revolution occuring in Bush’s buddy on the WoT, Uzbekistan? And if Uzbekistan goes, is it only a matter of time before the rest of the Soviet era rulers of central Asia and Belarus are overthrown?”

    Indeed so. Thanks to the power of the Bush-hating liberals. Newsweek lied, people died.

  16. Mubarak has done a pretty good job in Egypt and I have every confidence his son will do even better.

    Please tell me you’re joking.

  17. You took the words right out of my mouth. Though in Mubarak’s defense, the infrastructure’s improved significantly.

  18. Are the trains running on time, Mo? 😉

  19. thoreau,
    Precisely my point.

  20. I think this thread is suffering a fatal overdose of irony.

    Considering the judges in Egypt up until now had virtually no power to uphold their consitution, I’d say a strengthening judiciary IN EGYPT is long, long overdue.

    Anyone trying any equivalence games on this subject is an utter fool.

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